The Swedish Government has instructed the National Agency for Higher Education to review application of Chapter 6, Sections 12−14 of the Higher Education Ordinance (1993:100) to accreditation of courses for students from other universities and higher education institutions (HEIs). This assignment also includes reporting on whether the measures proposed in the Agency’s previous report, Credits for Higher Education (1998:32 R), have been implemented and, if not, proposing ways of solving the remaining problems.
The existing survey shows that most of the measures proposed by the Agency to date have been undertaken, with good results. One example is the collaboration among the HEIs that has culminated in joint recommendations drawn up by the Association of Swedish Higher Education (SUHF). These relate to publicity and educational inputs, increased use of the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS), measures on the part of the National Agency for Higher Education, etc.
As predicted by the Agency, ratification of the Lisbon Convention and the consequential amendments to the Higher Education Ordinance have improved the scope for generous accreditation and increased mobility for students.
Contributions to further improvements are also being made by the results of the Bologna Process achieved to date and by ongoing efforts to validate genuine proficiency. It may also be mentioned that the Board of Appeals for Higher Education (ÖNH)’s indicative decisions are now published on its website. This must facilitate the task of following the Board's adjudication regarding accreditation cases and thereby also contribute to greater uniformity.
However, examples of grounds for the rejection decisions made by Swedish HEIs give the impression that certain institutions still base their assessments on the wording of the former statute, i.e. comparing specific courses instead of concentrating more on the objectives of the study programmes concerned. This approach is questionable. On the other hand, the accreditation cases dealt with by ÖNH (see Annex) provide no clear indication of inadequate generosity on the HEIs’ part.
Many of the outstanding problems reported by the HEIs are connected with major differences among divergent education systems. If the aims of the Bologna Process are attained, however, this may be expected to facilitate accreditation issues considerably, at least for students who migrate among countries within the EU and/or EEA.
Besides the scope for accreditation under Chapter 6, Section 13 of the Higher Education Ordinance, other students may be expected to benefit henceforth from current work on validation of genuine proficiency. Expanded cooperation and exchange of knowledge, information for students and development of skills at the HEIs are areas where, as all the parties agree, further development is called for.
Work is, moreover, under way to introduce ECTS points and an ECTS grading scale, which may subsequently enhance the scope for accreditation. Evidently, there is growing awareness that accreditation decisions represent the exercise of official power vis-à-vis the individual, and must consequently fulfil special requirements concerning the rule of law. Nevertheless, there are still examples of shortcomings in administrative routines, and of guidelines that lack a legal foundation. It will, to some extent, be possible to remedy these shortcomings through the Agency’s supervisory activities.
Over and above SUHF’s recommendations on validation of genuine proficiency, a need has emerged for joint recommendations and guidelines concerning accreditation of Swedish education and work experience.
Since the National Agency for Higher Education and the Swedish HEIs have had only a brief period at their disposal to implement this assignment, there has been no scope for any in-depth analyses or well thought-out, solidly underpinned proposals. Given the existing documentation, the Agency has not deemed it necessary to submit any legislative drafts. However, in the Agency's view, an amendment to the heading of Chapter 6 in the Higher Education Ordinance from ' Crediting of Courses’ to ‘Crediting of Previous Education etc’ is advisable.